Reflections on the Clean Eating Challenge


What a week!  Today my partners-in -clean and I are sharing our impressions of the Clean Eating Challenge, and I thought I should reveal the real story.  I was excited when I was first approached by Allison (Go Dansker Mom) to participate, but then I realized the challenge was going to encroach on our spring break.  There was no way I’d be able to stick to the “rules” while on vacation.  So I officially started four days earlier than my partners and I’ve been off the challenge now for a couple of days, which has given me some time to reflect.  

It really wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  A few years ago, in anticipation (i.e. fear of) my 40th the birthday, I did a Clean Detox, trained for a triathlon and for a couple months ate only healthy food.  I felt great.  I didn’t maintain that healthy lifestyle, but I did remain conscious of my food choices.  I love vegetables and fruits and eat them every day.  Salad is my favorite food.  I don’t eat a lot of junk, except for my go-to comfort snack of cheese and crackers.  I’d already given up sweets for Lent, so I was used to not having desserts or sugary snacks.  The hardest thing was limiting my coffee, and I wasn’t particularly successful at it.

I must confess that I wasn’t always “clean.” I tried to eat all organic, but I didn’t do it 100%.  Whole Foods is a hike from my house and my local grocery store’s organic produce department is seriously lacking in choices at this time of the year.  I did use organic eggs for my breakfast and organic meat for dinners, but the rest of my food was organic only when available.

Meal preparation was the worst part.  There’s a lot of work involved in eating real food.  I have new respect for the housewives of the 1950’s and the 1960’s.  Those ladies were working hard all day – no wonder they all entered the workforce in droves.  It’s not a coincidence that the market for convenience and processed foods rose in direct correlation to the increase in the number of working moms.  Who has time to regularly make steel cut oatmeal when it takes thirty minutes to cook (and the only way to speed that up is to soak the oats overnight)?  To add insult to injury, as Amy mentioned in her blog, after all the prep, there’s also a lot of clean-up.  Phew.  After the halfway point, I was pretty much exclusively eating salads or roasted vegetables, just to save myself some time and energy!  Plus, between you and me, I’ve never been fond of spending all my time slaving in the kitchen.

When I did the Clean Detox a few years ago, I felt reborn by the end of the cleanse.  Seriously, it was  amazing.  I didn’t hear the angels sing this time.  I did feel more “clear headed” and more focused during the day, but I wasn’t bouncing off the walls with energy.  I really miss the manic energy I used to possess.   I’m guessing the fact that I wasn’t 100% organic may have played a role, or maybe my dependence on caffeine.  Also, I had a number of late nights during the challenge.  One evening I camped with the Cub Scouts and was kept awake by snoring dads.  Another morning, I got up at 4:30a.m. to write.  And on the last night of the challenge week, I stayed up very late packing, and then my alarm went off at 4:45a.m. for our 5:30 departure.  Momma was tired.  To be fair, I can’t dismiss the possibility that these schedule snafus contributed to my energy deficit.

I didn’t lose any weight.  Nada, zero, zilch.  At the beginning I’d stated that I wasn’t doing the challenge for weight loss, and truth be told I don’t really need to lose any, but still – a couple of pounds would have been nice.  Again, I must admit that I was not as diligent as my partners.  Allison, Amy and Holly all mentioned time at the gym in their blogs.  Me?  Not so much.  I walked three of the seven days.  It’s hard for me to get motivated when it’s cold outside.  Excuses, excuses…

I probably drink too much coffee.  No, I definitely do.  And the milk and sugar I add to it doesn’t help.   I need to get myself down to one luscious cup a day.  I think I need to do a coffee challenge, tame that beast, and then tackle the clean eating thing.

I got to read about some great recipes.  I was impressed with the meals my partners came up with.  They’re so creative and gutsy in the kitchen homemade hummus, roasted  tofu and of course, the quinoa of the day.  Honestly, I need to step it up a bit.  I love quinoa, but have never prepared it, only eaten the microwavable kind.  I love hummus, but get it from the deli.  I’ve only recently learned to use my food processor.  As for tofu, I wouldn’t even know where to buy it, although I’ve enjoyed it at PF Changs.  I feel a bit unworthy in the company of my partners.

Going forward, I think one of my biggest obstacles to eating clean is my “dirty” family.  They love all the bad stuff and four out of five of them have a metabolism as fast as a speeding bullet.  I’m trying to instill good eating habits, but it’s a constant battle.  My three blog partners have young children and they still have control.  I have four opinionated, picky and carb-addicted children.  And my husband, well forget about it, he’s set in his ways.  They all think Mommy and her weird foods are, well, weird.  It’s hard to get excited about food preparation when you know you’re going to hear groans as soon as the food hits the table.  I’m not ready to join them, but I’m also not likely to go to a lot of effort for my clean eating when it’s just for me.

On my first day of being off the challenge, I hit Starbucks.  Oh my skinny vanilla late, how I missed you.  I also ordered the classic oatmeal, good choice, with the dried sugary fruits on top, bad choice.  Then I drove for roughly 12 hours to the chilly state of Michigan, where snow is still on the ground (or as Camden said, “Look, the ground is wearing new clothes.”).  While driving, I snacked on processed, chemical laden popcorn.  When I got to my cousin’s house, I savored a dirty martini, with blue cheese olives.  Dinner was a light salad.  So I did indulge, but I didn’t go overboard.  Although the next morning I woke up to a coffee buffet, the likes of which I’ve never seen before.  Three days out, I have to say, I don’t feel as good as I did when I was on the challenge.


Where does this leave me?  I think I’m going to have to plan better, with menus and grocery shopping, and make the effort with organics.  Dairy, meat and produce should all be organic.  As for clean recipes, perhaps I’ll pick one big thing to make every week that I can use for multiple meals (like the quiche cups and the quinoa).  I’ll build on it from there.  I’m eager to read what Allison, Amy and Holly have to say about their weeks.   Perhaps it’ll motivate me to double down and try this again, to see if I can achieve better results.

Be sure to visit my partners, to see how they did.

Allison @ Go Dansker Mom

Amy @ Hot Breakfast

Holly @ Desert Momma

What about you?  Did you join us on the #cleaneatingchallenge?  Did you achieve results?  Do you buy organic?  Do you have any time saving tricks for meal prep?


11 thoughts on “Reflections on the Clean Eating Challenge”

  1. I can’t even explain how amazing that coffee bar looks. I love how honest this post is. I also know I will NOT be doing a detox diet any time soon. I had toyed with that idea for YEARS but this was a great lesson to me that it is not the time in my life for that!
    Thank you SO MUCH for coming along with me on the ride. If you do it again in the summer let me know! xo

    1. You are so welcome. It was fun – both the challenge and getting to know some new bloggers! Yes, the detox diet sucks:), but it really did work. I’ve tried to do it again a number of times, but not been able to stick to it like I did the first time.

  2. Honestly, I completely empathize with so many of your struggles! Even in Vegas, where I can get organic produce all the time practically, I still can’t truly afford it on a regular basis. It’s such a shame that unhealthy foods tend to be so much less expensive in this country!
    I think you are truly inspirational for doing this with us, even without a strong support network at home! Best of luck in the future – I will definitely be a more regular reader of your blog now too!! :)

    1. I know, the prices are crazy, aren’t they? But I keep remembering a line I heard on The Doctors – you need to think of organic food in terms of the cost of medicine. Thank you for all your support this week and your recipes! Good luck to you. I can’t wait to hear more about Zumba – hope you’re going to blog about it.

  3. Way to go, Allie! Between the Cub Scouts night and 12 hour car ride, you had it way tougher than me. I would have inhaled that coffee bar, too!

    As far as organic goes, I have to confess that while I regularly buy organic milk and eggs, the produce is hit or miss, and probably something I should put more thought into. I usually do put saving a couple dollars (or a trip to another grocery store) ahead of my quest for organic food. You’ve given me something to think about.

    It was so great getting to know you through this challenge. I’ll be visiting your blog often!

    1. Thanks Amy. I look forward to learning and reading more on Hot Breakfast. Yes, I too factor in the extra dollars and the time to drive the extra 15 miles:(. Wish Whole foods would come to my ‘hood!

  4. I totally relate to what you’re saying re: caffeine. I eat decently a good chunk of the time, but I know that my dependence on coffee is not good news.

  5. I gave up caffeine about 2 months ago for a whole bunch of reasons and the first 3 weeks were ROUGH. I mean, I was a narcoleptic, crabby mess. But after that, I think I kind of got used to it and stopped being so sluggish and exhausted in the mornings. I never thought I would be able to function without it, but once I got over the hump, I’ve actually been feeling pretty good in the mornings. I’m here to tell you it’s definitely do-able!

    1. I am so impressed. Do you drink decaf? I used to make fun of people for that, but reconsidering. Aside from the obvious caffeine addiction, I love the ritual of my morning coffee.

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